I started working at my current office at the San Francisco Hobart Building in 2015 . As an entry to the office, I was invited to join a network of independent therapists called Psyched in SF, lead by Traci Rubel, MFT who started Psyched Magazine. Traci inspired us all to write for the magazine, regardless of how we viewed our writing abilities. This gave me a sense of permission to make my voice heard, to capture my experiences around psychology and healing. Besides the magazine, Traci also created Sidewalk Talk, an organization of therapists that set up free listening seats on city sidewalks. These volunteers, usually counselors and therapists, make themselves available to walkers by, offering unconditional listening for 5-10 minutes. Being heard regulates the nervous system, makes one feel seen and can make a huge impact, even if its for a few minutes. Traci sees this as a way of changing this isolated nation, one person at a time, through offering connections and empathy rather than the usual competition and judgement that we encounter daily.
Back to my story. While I was there at Psyched, the therapists were inspired to share potential ideas for articles at the staff meetings. During one of those meetings, a fellow fledgling writer/therapist talked about her latest article, where she discovered a new angle on therapy via an interview she conducted with a successful female entrepreneur.
In this interview, this entrepreneur attributed her success to the work that she had done with her therapist, who at her first session handed her the well-known book “The 7 principles of making marriage work,” by John Gottman. Understandably, the reaction of the entrepreneur was one of confusion upon receiving the book. “No, I am here to focus on myself, I’m not here for couple’s therapy,” was the entrepreneur’s reaction. “But you are in a relationship aren’t you? To yourself, that is. Isn’t that right?” said the therapist. “I would like for you to read this book and apply the principles to yourself,” continued the therapist. “Try and focus on what kind of relationship you are in, with yourself. Do you trust yourself? Do you treat yourself with respect? Do you love and admire yourself? Do you take yourself out to dates? Read the book, which is intended towards developing skills to become a healthy and loving partner, but apply the principles to how you treat yourself, internally.”
According tho the interview, this concept of being aware of the relationship you are in with yourself changed the entrepreneur’s life. She went from being stuck in a self sabotaging cycle to developing a lucrative business as she started to support her internal foundation. Her direction was clear when she focussed on her truth and the beliefs that got in the way of owning that purpose. She emerged from having a negative internal relationship, which translated into low self-worth and self-regard, and replaced it with a healthy internal regard, yielding a new sense of self and the ability to invite her desires.
This idea really resonated with me as a framework at the time, and I started to incorporate that curiosity into my work and personal practices. At first I thought, yeah that’s an obvious concept. Nothing new here. I’m an only child and was positioned to be my own best friend and relate/talk to myself all the time. That’s a relationship to myself, right? Not quite. The difference is how I respond to my actions internally. Do I criticize myself when I do something embarrassing or am I accepting? Am I able to be compassionate with myself if I fail? Do I look at myself and feel proud or do I shame myself? Even further, is there a part of me that shames another part of me – one part acting as a bully internally towards another more vulnerable internal part? This, of course, is related to getting to know our inner critic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inner_critic .
Being aware of our internal relation to ourselves is a practice that can yield more potential internal support and acceptance. We start to notice if this critic is running the show and abusing our internal sense of self and instead start to converse with this critic to find what it is serving. This critical part is working hard to give us something- usually trying to save face and make us do better. If we actually listen to this part we can gather the cream at the top of what they are trying to offer and let go of the criticism.
When we tune into the relational parts internally, then the parts start to relax and trust us. We begin to integrate more and develop more self acceptance by having a loving connection with our own Truth. I’ll get more into this in the next blog entry as I discuss the concept of the difference between the fragmented parts of Self – like the critic- vs the essential Self, which is connected to a deeper consciousness and an intuitive Truth.